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Dietary acid load and mood

Dietary acid load implicated as major factor in mood imbalances

Article and research courtesy of BioConcepts

The latest research identifies a direct and significant correlation between dietary acid load (DAL) and emotional health. The higher the DAL, the higher the risk for significant mood dysregulation.1

A 2020 Iranian study collecting data from over 4300 people indicated that participants with the highest DAL had the most risk of marked mood imbalance with the top category expressing a 92% greater risk than others.1

Another study including 400 female subjects 20-50 years of age, demonstrated that when compared to lower dietary acid load, participants with higher DAL had greater odds of developing stress and mood dysregulation measured on a validated scale.2

Maintaining a low level of inflammation is just one mechanism involved in reducing the risk of developing mood disorders. Studies show a low intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables can be associated with increased inflammatory markers. In addition, plant-based diets containing alkali-rich food groups can increase bicarbonate and bicarbonate precursors, while animal products increase potential inorganic acid precursors.3

The mechanisms involved suggest that even moderate increases in dietary acid load significantly stimulate the secretion and activity of glucocorticoids which play a central role in body-brain interaction.4 In a large cohort study of 200 healthy children, those with higher dietary acid loads secreted more glucocorticoids with long-term exposure thought to contribute to adverse psychological effects.

Glucocorticoids can cause changes in the limbic areas of the brain (prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus) and thereby modulate emotional evaluation and behaviour. They can alter the expression and activation of vesicular proteins which are involved in glutamate neurotransmission.3

Additional findings from these studies show that higher DAL scores were associated with poor sleep, which corresponds with systemic acid-base balance and influences on glutaminergic neurons regulating brain activity and sleep stages.3

These insights show us that prevention strategies including diet composition can offer a major modifiable factor alongside psychological, social and environmental considerations for this global health burden.4


  1. Milajerdi, A. et al. Dietary acid load in relation to depression and anxiety in adults. J. Hum. Nutr. Diet.33, 48–55 (2020).
  2. Mozaffari, H., Siassi, F., Guilani, B., Askari, M. & Azadbakht, L. Association of dietary acid-base load and psychological disorders among Iranian women: A cross-sectional study. Complement. Ther. Med.53, (2020).
  3. Daneshzad, E. et al. Association of dietary acid load and plant-based diet index with sleep, stress, anxiety and depression in diabetic women. Br. J. Nutr.123, 901–912 (2020).
  4. Bühlmeier, J. et al. Dietary acid load and mental health outcomes in children and adolescents: Results from the GINIplus and LISA birth cohort studies. Nutrients10, 1–16 (2018).

Article and research courtesy of BioConcepts